With all the big-name stars who have expressed plans to enter this month's Royal Rumble match, one has to wonder where Ryback will fit into the picture should he desire to throw his hat in the ring.
While nothing is official yet, Big Hungry is expected to be one of the 30 men beating each other’s brains out at WWE Royal Rumble 2013 on Jan. 27 in Phoenix. And if he enters, he should be a shoo-in to win it, right?
Not exactly. Ryback’s huge popularity among the WWE Universe obviously will make him one of the favorites. But as we all know, favorites in sports entertainment don’t always win.
WWE likes to throw swerves like that from time to time. Just when you think you know the direction a program has taken, WWE will change course...sometimes in the middle of a live telecast.
No, the Royal Rumble is won by someone who the WWE Creative Team decides needs some kind of big push to start or restart a career.
It can be argued that Ryback already has received his push during his recent program with WWE champ CM Punk that may or may not yet be over. Punk and Ryback are tentatively set to face off in a TLC-style match for the WWE Championship on next Monday’s Raw telecast, which, regardless of whether it goes off or not, should end that program—and Ryback’s push.
After that, it will be up to WWE to decide if Ryback will get a new push either toward a Royal Rumble victory or in a whole different direction.
There are several other factors—both storyline and real—that could affect Ryback’s outcome in the match.
Part of it depends upon where he draws. If he comes out early, the question comes up about whether he has the stamina to go in a long match. The later he comes out, the better his chances become.
It also depends upon who might be waiting for Ryback in the ring. John Cena, Randy Orton and 2012 Royal Rumble winner Sheamus all have announced plans to enter the match, and it is obvious none of them will be brought out early or eliminated quickly.
WWE also could make things interesting for Ryback by putting The Shield in the Royal Rumble match. Given their recent history, if two or even all three members of The Shield are in the ring by the time his music hits, you know where their focus will shift.
There also is the possibility that The Shield will intervene regardless of whether they participate in the match or are bystanders. The group could hit the ring at any time and go after Ryback, possibly softening him up for elimination.
Those are some of the storyline reasons. The legitimate reason for Ryback not winning could be if he sustains a true injury prior to Jan. 27 that would keep him out of action.
So don’t be so quick to hand the Royal Rumble crown (and the title shot that comes with it) to Ryback. We still have almost a whole month to see if WWE feels like he deserves it.
Bill Atkinson is a columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.